CLIMARCTIC – Climate Change Impacts on Arctic Soil and Lake Microbiomes

CLIMARCTIC team in front of the „Blue House“ (AWIPEV station) in Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard, Norway (Summer 2017). From left to right: Vivien Hotter, Elie Verleyen, Ramona Kern, Aline Frossard, Bjorn Tytgat, Christophe Seppey, David Velázquez. © V. Hotter
Example of a sampling plot at Knudsenheia (Svalbard) in summer 2017. The soil is covered by cyanobacteria dominated biological soil crusts, mosses and higher plants. Soil samples of the surface and depth will be analyzed by i. a. metagenomic and metatranscriptomic approaches. © V. Hotter

Nowhere is the impact of climate change more visible and drastic than in the Arctic. Since 1970er the Arctic winter temperature increases up to 5 °C, two to three times of the planet’s average – a phenomena also known as Arctic amplification. The global warming and the connected reduction of ice covering not only result in hungry polar bears. In fact, Arctic tundra is highly sensible to i. e. higher temperature and altered water availability and the response of microbial community to this changes is known to be complex. In particular, over the last thousand years, tons of carbon were fixed by photoysynthetic active bacteria and microalgae and stored in the permafrost. Due to the global warming and melting of permafrost, a microbial breakdown of stored carbon could led to higher greenhouse gas emission in the form of carbon dioxide and methane. On the other hand, longer greening periods can also yield in a higher carbon fixation rate by photosynthetic active microorganisms and plants. Hence, discover the diversity of soil microorganisms and its activity is crucial because of their important role in arctic and global carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous cycling.

Up to now, the climate change impact on Arctic soil and lake microbiomes and how temperature and water availability can influence the biodiversity and their function for the Arctic ecosystem is poorly understood. These questions are addressed in the international project CLIMARCTIC, which is part of the DFG-founded project BiodivERsA and consists of five European research groups. The main objective are the potential effects of climate change on the biodiversity and functioning of Arctic soil and lake microbiomes. Therefore this project will also focus on the role of biocrusts on arctic (and global) carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous cycling. To study the biodiversity of arctic terrestrial microbial communities we conduct in cooperation with all project partners in situ experiments at the research base in Ny-Ålesund (Svalbard) which will be compared and connected to laboratory experiments. Furthermore the biodiversity and structure of dormant and active microorganisms as a function of i. e. temperature and water availability will be investigated using modern metagenomic and metatranscriptomic approaches. The identification of marker genes can give important insights into the functionality of the investigated microbiome. The combination with palaeolimnological approaches of 2000 years old sediments of flanking lakes will help to understand and evaluate the alteration of biodiversity, structure and functionality of the Arctic micro-ecosystem over time.

Responsible persons
Prof. Dr. Ulf Karsten
Dr. Ekaterina Pushkareva and Dr. Ramona Kern

Prof. Dr. Ulf Karsten

German Research Foundation

Funding number
KA 899/33-1

Funding Period
2017 - 2020

Cooperation partners
Prof. Dr. Elie Verleyen, Protistology and Aquatic Ecology, Ghent University, Belgium
Prof. Dr. Mette Marianne Svenning, Department of Arctic and Marine Biology, Arctic University of Norway, Norway
Dr. Beat Frey, Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research, Switzerland
Prof. Dr. Antonio Quesada, Department of Biology, Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain
Official project website